TRO to assist IDPs in East through International, local NGOs

[TamilNet, Saturday, 14 April 2007, 06:14 GMT]
"There is an acute shortage of toilet facilities and 6,000 shelters in the East for Internally Displaced Persons, who languish without adequate food in Sri Lanka Army controlled areas, where the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) was blocked from attending the plight of the refugees," the organisation said a day ahead of the Tamil New Year, resolving to channel the humanitarian assistance through International and local organisations. Several camps lack roofs and 100 persons have to share a single toilet in average, although the NGOs have managed to put up 11,000 shelters and 1,600 toilets for more than 23,000 families that have sought refuge in the service centres.

Another 20,000 families staying with their relatives and friends do not have access to relief, the TRO said.

Extracts from a press release issued by the TRO follow:

"Given the vast experience of TRO during prior conflict and tsunami related displacements, it is not at all a big challenge for TRO to care for up to 150,000 displaced persons."

"But, as a result of the actions of the GoSL, such as the freezing of the TRO bank accounts, the other unwritten economic sanctions and restrictions, the arbitrary blockades imposed by the GoSL and due to the antisocial activities of paramilitary, supported by the GoSL, TRO is unable to be physically present in the East to assist the affected people and perform the needed humanitarian relief activities."

TRO paid a heavy price in its attempt to continue with its humanitarian services in the East: 7 TRO humanitarian aid workers and volunteers were abducted and executed in early 2006.

"Our offices were attacked and looted and our vehicles were taken away forcibly. All of these atrocities have only served to strengthen TRO’s conviction to serve the people."

"Disturbed by the goodwill that TRO engendered with the people in the East as a result of the high level of services TRO provided in the post-tsunami period, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) did the utmost possible to thwart TRO’s humanitarian and development activities. The GoSL forces, in partnership with a paramilitary force, broke into TRO offices in the East of Sri Lanka and damaged and looted them. TRO’s vehicles, which were used for humanitarian services, were forcibly taken away by these forces.

"GoSL and paramilitary forces currently illegally inhabit TRO offices in the East. The paramilitary force has taken over the TRO office in Trincomalee and the TRO office in Vaharai is today occupied by the Sri Lanka Police Force. All the TRO staff working in these offices were driven away by threats to their lives. The pathetic part of this story is that the GoSL forces and police, who have forcibly occupied TRO’s offices, do nothing whatsoever to alleviate the sufferings of the displaced people and in most cases are the cause of the suffering.

"The most recent attempt by the GoSL to alienate TRO from the people of the East was the September 2006 freezing of the TRO bank accounts in Sri Lanka “for investigation” as a result of baseless, false allegations. Undeterred, TRO did not retreat and, despite harassment, has kept its office in the capital, Colombo, open. TRO, instead, chose to challenge the freezing of the bank account in the courts. Due to numerous delays by the GoSL and the Court TRO has still not had its “day in court”. The GoSL has to date not produced any evidence to back up its allegations despite 8 months of “investigation” and court proceedings. TRO has continued most of its projects despite the freezing.

"There are 96 refugee camps housing the IDPs in the Batticaloa District. These IDPs languish without adequate food and recent statements by international organizations state that food supplies are almost exhausted. Several of the camps have no roofs and thus far only 1,600 toilet facilities have been provided. This results in each toilet having to be used by 100 IDPs.

"In Amparai district approximately 9,000 IDPs lack drinking water and undergo untold difficulties as a result of not having access to basic facilities and relief.

"All of the displaced people in Trincomalee, Batticaloa, and Amparai have moved to the areas controlled by the GoSL due to shelling by the GoSL. More than 14 International organizations and about 43 local organizations serve these IDPs and we recognize and appreciate their service mindedness and support. It is however regrettable that there appear to be considerable shortcomings in the provision of relief and efficient management of the IDP crisis in the Batticaloa District.

"Approximately, 23,400 families have been lodged in community halls, schools, and makeshift shelters and the rest are staying with relatives and other host families. The approximately 66,500 IDPs who are staying with relatives do not have access to relief. Altogether, 19,400 shelters need be put up and thus far International organizations have undertaken to erect 11,560 shelters. There is a remaining need of 5,840 shelters."

"Nevertheless, TRO has taken measures to serve our people in the East with the logistical assistance of some international and local organizations.

"TRO hereby appeals go anyone who wishes to help the displaced in the East to do so through their local Overseas TRO Office. These offices are spread across the world and the contact details are available on the website."


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